Women support women in leadership
Employer, People + Culture

Three ways to support women in leadership

There isn’t a lack of skilled women, instead, it’s the environment that must change.

Australian women are underrepresented in leadership positions in almost all industries. There isn’t a lack of skilled women, instead, it’s the environment that must change. Here are three ways to support women in leadership.

A lack of women in leadership

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, while women make up half of the employees in Australia, only 19.4% are CEOs and 32.5% are in key management positions.

This isn’t because there is a lack of women who are committed, suited and skilled for leadership positions. The problem is with the environment.

Learn how to support women in leadership

Women continue to report:

  • Bias
  • Prevalence of old stereotypes, such as leaders needing to be masculine
  • Lack of flexibility, particularly for women who are carers.

This is an even more insurmountable challenge for culturally and racially marginalised women (CARM).

A report from Diversity Council Australia (2023) found that CARM women are ambitious and capable—with 78% of those surveyed wanting to advance to a senior leadership position—however, they have been locked out of leadership.

The report shows, at rates higher than average, they are:

  • Underestimated
  • Not provided with career opportunities
  • Overlooked
  • Subjected to a higher bar.

So, what changes can you make to support women in the workplace and in leadership?

Three tips to support women in leadership

  1. Support talent through life transitions

Often women, at different stages of their lives, will take on caretaking roles for children or older parents. It’s important that their employers support them through this transition.

While their availability to work may reduce, such as working part-time hours, that does not detract from their performance or commitment to the company.

Ensure you have policies that support career continuation. If your employee is on maternity leave, consider ways to include them in key decisions via video so they don’t feel they are walking into an entirely different workplace on their return. If suitable, you might also redesign their job role. This can support you in retaining your talent while embracing more flexible work arrangements.

Take steps to support women in leadership

  1. Actively sponsor rising women

Sponsorship aims to support high-performing individuals in the workplace who otherwise might be overlooked. With a program in place, it can help to ensure high-performers are seen by the C-suite and can be guided towards opportunities they may not have known were available. Sponsorship and mentorship can also support the individual when they are promoted into a new position and navigating new challenges in the workplace.

Sponsoring women internally is a good way to boost retention and grow connections in the workplace.

  1. Change your recruitment processes

Being aware of unconscious bias is one step towards addressing the lack of female representation when recruiting for leadership positions. However, it’s possible to take more firm steps to ensure opportunities are equally as available to women.

Telstra, for example, has opted to establish a gender target for candidate shortlists. While most companies want at least one of each gender on a shortlist, Telstra has a 50-50 requirement. To ensure they meet this requirement they’ve also had to think about how they write job ads. The inclusion of “X years of experience”, for example, would typically exclude many women, simply as they haven’t been given the opportunity. Rethink where in your recruitment process you can alter processes that will promote women in leadership.


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